By Jake Donovan
An hour or so before Daniel Jacobs and Peter Quillin square off in the “Battle For Brooklyn”, featherweights Jesus Cuellar and Jonathan Oquendo are tasked with priming the crowd at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Their 12-round title fight will air live on Showtime, as the opening bout of a doubleheader capped by the aforementioned middleweight clash.
Cuellar (27-1, 21KOs) makes the second defense of his full version of the featherweight title. The southpaw from Argentina - who turns 29 later this month - is coming off of an 8th round knockout of Vic Darchinyan in June.
He picked up an interim title with an Aug. '13 win over Claudio Marrero, defending three times before receiving the upgrade to full title status. Overall, Cuellar has won 10 straight since the lone loss of his career, a 7th round stoppage at the hands of Oscar Escandon in Oct. ’11.
The bout was his last at super bantamweight and also the only time he has been dropped or stopped.
Oquendo (26-4, 16KOs) enters on the biggest win of his career, a 10-round decision over former three-time titlist Jhonny Gonzalez this past September in Las Vegas. Saturday's showdown with Cuellar marks the first career title shot for the 32-year old from Vega Alta, Puerto Rico.
The opportunity didn’t exactly come the easy way. Much of his career has been in time marking fights before being thrown in versus big names. The lone two stoppage losses of his career came versus fellow Boricua boxers Juan Manuel Lopez (TKO3 loss in Feb. ’08) and Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. (Oct. ’12), while also suffering a 12-round defeat at the hands of a then-comebacking Abner Mares last July.
Two straight wins have followed, including the aforementioned majority decision over Gonzalez in September, a fight in which he was a heavy underdog and also moving up in weight. Taking the fight at 130 lb. was a one-time occasion, as he immediately dropped back down to featherweight upon being offered the chance to fight for the title.
Read on to see how the staff at BoxingScene.com believes Saturday night’s featherweight action goes down in Brooklyn.
BOXINGSCENE.COM STAFF PREDICTIONS: JESUS CUELLAR vs. JONATHAN OQUENDO
Jake Donovan (Cuellar Dec.): I believe this will be a more competitive fight than most seem to think is the case. Oquendo will go out on his shield if he has to go out, but I believe he sees the final bell, which he will have to accept as a moral victory.
Michael Gibbons (Cuellar KO11): Cuellar's power in both hands will derail Oquendo's chance at the WBA featherweight belt.
Takahiro Onaga (Cuellar Dec.): This should be a very fun fight, lots of action but I think Cuellar simply out works Oquendo in a fan friendly fight.
Victor Salazar (Cuellar TKO): Oquendo got here by beating a shot Gonzalez. I like his style but he lost a fight to wv2. I like Cuellar by mid round stoppage.
Reynaldo Sanchez (Cuellar KO8): I think Oquendo receives a lot of punishment. Cuellar seems more like a super featherweight than a featherweight.
Alexey Sukachev (Cuellar TKO8): Cuellar has been looking very solid recently, stopping three his last opponents. On the other hand, an upset master from Puerto-Rico tends to decrease his activity to later rounds, and his chin cannot be considered an all-time great. Oquendo will fade late to be stopped after the mid-point.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox